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Reaction Roundup: Premier Dalton McGuinty steps down and adjourns the legislature

(Image: Communitech Photos)

We’ve never really thought of Dalton McGuinty as a big-surprises kind of guy, but Premier Dad shocked the province last night by announcing his resignation as party leader—and the prorogation of the legislature. Today, most of Toronto is speculating about why McGuinty stepped down, and where, politically, the province goes from here. We rounded up the main threads of the discussion, including who might replace him, whether McGuinty has federal leadership aspirations and what Rob Ford thinks about it all.

• McGuinty may aspire to be the leader of the federal Liberals
Reporters pressed McGuinty last night on whether he has aspirations for the federal Liberal leadership, which the premier studiously avoided ruling out (“All I said is I’m not making any plans”). Writing in the Globe and Mail, pollster and strategist Bruce Anderson argues that McGuinty’s visibility and strength as a campaigner could change the race, which is currently dominated by Justin Trudeau. 

• There isn’t a single obvious premier-in-waiting
Unfortunately for the Ontario Liberals, “there is no Justin Trudeau waiting in the Liberal backbenches at Queen’s Park to take over the party and revitalize it,” observed CBC analyst Robert Fisher. However, several names are already coming up as potential McGuinty replacements, including George Smitherman, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne and Energy Minister Chris Bentley (whose role in handling two cancelled gas plants could complicate matters for him).

• An escalating spending scandal forced McGuinty to resign
McGuinty’s critics have charged that he made his announcement to minimize the fallout from an escalating scandal over two power plants. The premier has come under fire both for scrapping the plants in Mississauga and Oakville (which will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars) and for his cabinet’s failure to immediately release documents to the opposition about the decision. As the National Post’s Matt Gurney put it: “the truth of the matter is that Mr. McGuinty stepped down because his party’s power plant shenanigans simply weren’t something that could be explained away.”

• This could help labour negotiations to move forward
In his speech, McGuinty said suspending legislature would give his government time to negotiate with unions and opposition parties, who oppose a public-sector wage freeze that Liberals say is a budget necessity. The Toronto Star spoke to two labour leaders who said that this pause in parliament does in fact provide an opportunity to renew negotiations.

• What will it mean for Toronto? Who knows? (At least the mayor doesn’t)
As for how this will all affect Toronto, Rob Ford said he was “not sure” (to be fair, the announcement had only come a few hours before). The mayor did say that McGuinty was right to step down: “He’s skipper of the ship and, you know, when the ship is sinking, he’s got to tell the crew: ‘That’s it. We’ve got to move on.’”